Long Term Test: 2017 Arctic Cat Thundercat

Mightiest motor machine made!
2017 Arctic Cat Thundercat
Kort Duce photos
Full-season 4-stroke fun! That’s what we had on the Thundercat and its sibling sled (Yamaha Sidewinder L-TX LE) last winter. The motor is nuts, as you would expect for a 200+hp ripping-fast machine, but just like every sled we test, it wasn’t all wine and roses. We’ll get to that, but our overall impression was very positive for the first production year of this super gutsy sled.

Tests show positive

The Thundercat absolutely is a performance-enhanced snowmobile, and you might need some beefed-up forearms to hold onto this thing! Honestly though, it is not necessarily a hard hit of power when the turbo really spools up, nor is it a hard clutch engagement or low-end jerk. It’s not knowing when to let off the gas that gives you the greatest workout!

In AmSnow’s Real World acceleration tests, our Thundercat was second only to its brother, the Yamaha Sidewinder. In our Real World wet weight testing, the Thundercat was heavier. Thirteen pounds separated it from the Sidewinder, a fact that may have contributed to its slightly slower times and speeds. We did have this sled studded with a full complement of three Stud Boy Power Point studs and Super-Lite backers per bar (www.studboytraction.com). (The Sidewinder was studded as well.) We installed an additional wheel kit in the rear skid. We do this to enhance the durability and usability of ProCross chassis sleds that have traction products. We started with 9-inch Stud Boy Shaper single carbides up front, but found that was too much carbide, as it made the sled darty, causing steering effort to become heavy in normal trail riding. That being said, it was fantastic on the ice and frozen lakes/rivers!

It takes fuel to make power. That is as true today as it was 20 years ago, and it was evident when we took fuel mileage on the Thundercat. Certainly, there were plenty of times when “heavy-handed” riders were on this sled, but even more casual trail riders in our test riding crew liked to grab a handful of throttle! Our Real World MPG numbers were 10.38mpg, but the season-long number hovered right around 11mpg. These numbers were taken after our first oil and filter change at 500 miles, which is the supposed end of the break-in period for the Yamaha triple fuel-injected liquid 4-stroke engine.

Engine: 998cc liquid triple EFI 4-stroke HP: 205.0* Drive: TEAM Rapid Response II primary, TEAM Rapid Reaction BOSS secondary
Exhaust: Turbocharger w/ stainless steel muffler
Ski Stance: 42-43 in. adj. w/ ProCross-6 skis Front Susp.: ARS w/ FOX 1.5 Zero QS3 shocks, sway bar (10 in. travel)
Rear Susp.: Slide-Action w/ tri-hub rear axle system, coupling blocks, torque-sensing link rear arm, adj. torsion springs w/ Arctic Cat IFP 1.5 center shock, FOX 2.0 Zero QS3 rear shock (13.5 in. travel)
Track: 15x137x 1.25 RipSaw II
Fuel (tank/octane): 9.9 gal. / 91 octane
Dry Weight: NA Wet Weight: 684 lbs.* (w/studs)
Price: $16,899 US / $19,599 CA
REAL WORLD STATS:* Top Speed: 96.13 mph ¼-mile: 13.08 sec. MPG: 10.38
* AmSnow tested

We always find something!

If you put on enough miles, you’ll find things you don’t like. After our first oil change, we could swear that the sled was down on power. We talked to every Cat rep and dealer we could, but none could pinpoint the problem. We think the oil change kit recommended by Cat had slightly thicker oil than what was in the sled originally, but we can’t prove it. That being said, we could only get just over 104 mph on the speedo … darn. We were seeing 114 mph before the oil change.

Another annoyance was the heated seat seemed to have a mind of its own and worked when it wanted to. We had the same problem on other Cat / Yamaha 4-strokes. It did not seem to matter which setting we used; it only worked sometimes, and when it did, it was hot!

Finally, this sled did not come with the top-of-the-line Kashima-coated FOX QS3 shocks like the Yamaha. This was Cat’s baddest ultra-performance sled in years, and the graphics and shock package could have reflected that more. We are picky, though, and honestly, we had a fantastic time riding this sled!
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